Track and field championships previews for Stanford-Washington State
As is expected of Stanford, the Cardinal have a distance corps that always makes it a contender. This year is no different as the team will have a contingent that excels in the middle-distance and distance events. On the women’s side, senior Jessica Tonn recorded the fastest time in the country in the 5,000 meters (15:18.85), also the second-fasted time in Pac-12 history.
The Cardinal also look to junior Claudia Saunders to lead a deep contingency, and possibly stand atop the podium, in the 800 meters as the favorite in the event. She recorded the top time in the Conference at that distance (2:01.79), also one of the top-10 times in league history, and is third in the nation. Also look for depth in a stacked 1,500-meter race with Elise Cranny among them. In the triple jump, a newcomer Marisa Kwiatkowski, the top triple jumper in the Pac-12, looks to unseat USC’s Melia Cox.
On the men’s side, sophomore Garrett Sweatt looks to carry the torch in Stanford’s historic dominance in the distances as the top 10,000-meter runner in the Conference this season. Former teammate Joe Rosa won the event last year and junior Darian Brooks looks to defend his title in the triple jump, already posting the best mark in the league this season.
Host UCLA is off to a good start as it enters the final weekend of competition on its home turf. The Bruins are tied for first with 10 points on the women’s side and collected seven points to place fourth on the men’s.
In addition to hosting, the UCLA men has the added pressure of having won at least one individual crown a Conference-record 50-consecutive championships, a streak that is active, while the women look to end a three-year drought. It should not be a problem for the men to continue that streak. Senior Michael Woepse looks to be one of the top competitors in the pole vault, having won the crown in 2013. In the shot put, sophomore Nicholas Scarvelis and freshman Braheme Days are No. 1 and No. 2 in the shot put in the Conference.
On the women’s side, the strongest chances to break the individual drought is in senior Ida Storm in the hammer throw and junior Zibby Boyer in the high jump. Both have posted the best marks in each event in the Pac-12 this season. Storm ranks eighth in the throwing event in the nation (65.08m/213-6) and Boyer is in the top five in the country, recording a jump of 1.86m/6-1.25.
The multi athletes have already given the Bruins a leg up on the competition after senior Tatum Souza placed second in the heptathlon with a score of 5,636, while senior teammate Alexis Walker was seventh with 5,201 points. The decathlon competition was one of the toughest in the country as seven of the top-15 competitors faced off last weekend at Drake Stadium, including fifth-ranked Marcus Nilsson who placed third (7,663). Freshman teammate Zack Bornstein was eighth (6,991).
USC is having its best seasons in recent history, with the women ranked No. 2 in the country and the men No. 4. It is the first time since 2008 both teams have been in the top five. The Trojans have recorded 36 top-30 marks so far this season (13 men and 23 women) making them strong contenders to knock of the Oregon Ducks. The last time USC won the league crown was in 2000 for the men and 1996 for the women.
Junior Andre De Grasse is the favorite to win the 100-meter and 200-meter races, currently ranking first in both events after recording the best times in the country in both. His 20.16 in the 200 meters is one of the top-three fastest times in league history, and he is tied for the world-leading time in the 100 meters (9.87/+4.0w). He follows in the recent success by USC sprinters, including Olympians Aaron Brown and Bryshon Nellum. Since 2012, Trojan sprinters have won five of the combined six 100- and 200-meter titles at the Conference championships.
The junior Tera Novy set the school record in the discus this season (59.12m/193-11) and has the top throw in the event in the Conference, but defending champion senior Alexandra Collatz will be looking to retain her crown.
Senior Connor McCullough is one the top American hammer throwers and has become eligible to compete. He leads the nation in the hammer throw with a mark of 75.88m/248-11, the farthest by a collegian since 2002 and seventh all-time by a college thrower. His mark is also nearly 20 feet longer than the next-closest Pac-12 competitor and will be hard to catch.
Junior Jaide Stepter and sophomore Amalie Iuel rank 1-2 in the Conference, 2-3 among collegians and T-6-7 in the world in the 400-meter hurdles. Stepter was the champion in the event last year, winning by less than a half second, while Iuel advanced to the finals and finished fifth.
The Utes will be looking to win their first individual crown since joining the league four years ago. Their best bet is coming from sophomore javelin thrower Megan Glasmann has the 13th-best mark in the NCAA in the event with a school-record throw of 51.31m/168-4. The mark is second overall in the Pac-12 and she finished placed last year at the Pac-12 Championships as a freshman at Stanford behind defending champion Brainna Bain of Stanford, who will be going for a fourth-straight title.
Freshman Sarah Feeny recently ran a personal-best time of 4:18.24 in the 1,500 meters and sophomore Ilsa Kaaja has a NCAA top-40 toss in the hammer throw (60.33m/197’11”) and is in the top 20 in the region. Kaaja finished sixth in the hammer at the Pac-12 Championships as a freshman last year, where she was also the top freshman at the West Regional meet.
Another young talent on the roster is sophomore Alissa Atisme broke the Utah school records in both the 100 (11.78) and 200 (24.16) this season.
The Huskies have plenty of depth on the roster on both the men’s and women’s side, including returning Pac-12 Champions in Jax Thoirs (pole vault), Diamara Planell-Cruz (pole vault) and Aaron Nelson (steeplechase). In the pole vault, in particular, Washington has been dominant, sweeping the event last year.
Kristina Owsinski will also vie for the pole vault title, boasting the best clearance on the women’s side this year (4.33m/14-2.50) but Planell Cruz was higher at the NCAA indoor championships (4.35m/14-3.25). UW also has 2012 men’s champion J.J. Juilfs and 2013 Pac-12 runner-up Chris Williams.
Washington’s top two mid-distance standouts are Izaic Yorks on the men’s side and Maddie Meyers on the women’s side. Yorks was an 800 meter finalist last. Meyers was an All-American in cross country and her 5,000-meters PR came early in the season but still ranks third in the Conference and could also be a factor in the loaded 1,500m.
The women’s 4x100-meter relay has run its fastest time since the 1980s this season, and comes in seeded fourth in the Conference. Washington has not finished in the top-five in the women’s 4x100 since 2000.
Sophomore Alissa Brooks-Johnson came from behind to win the Pac-12 heptathlon title to give the Cougars 10 points and tie for the lead heading into this weekend’s competition. Books-Johnson became the first Cougar to win the title since Diana Pickler did so in 2007.
Also looking to nab some points and return to the podium is Kristine Felix. A junior, she won the title in 2013 becoming the first Cougar in the history of the meet to take the event title. But it will be tough to stake claim in the title again with a stacked field vying for it, including 2014 champion Washington’s Diamara Planell-Cruz.
Senior Charlotte Muschamp is the defending champion in the high jump, but five jumpers are in the top-35 in the nation in the event, including fifth-ranked Zibby Boyer of UCLA and will have the home crowd pulling for her.
On the men’s side, CJ Allen nabbed the 400-meter hurdles last year on his home track, returning the event title to Pullman after former Cougar Jeshua Anderson won four-straight from 2008-11. But Allen was sidelined due to injury, so the event is now up for grabs.
The 800-meter race will be a competitive one with senior Jesse Jorgensen looking to grab the Conference crown. He has posted the second-best time in the event this season. Junior Thane Pierson (high jump) and freshman Brad Stevens (javelin) look to get on the podium in their events.